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Recent postings on “I miss my mom” brought back memories of moments with my mom when I would get very anxious and frustrated, when I would raise my voice and so on. My mom was very forgiving of me, and very understanding — she got how worried I was about her, especially but not exclusively during latter years of complex health issues, and she appreciated that I was trying my best to help. She was grateful to me, and expressed gratitude, which was sometimes uncomfortable, but I was also so grateful to her that there was balance. At the same time inevitably there were many frustrating and upsetting moments, of course, mostly just born of the anxiety and tension, but also a couple of times during her illness when we had what I’d call a real conflict.
One occasion of conflict in retrospect was kind of absurd. My mom's symptoms were never explained or treated and were very severe and devastating: in particular she had episodes where she suddenly swooned backwards, feeling unstable on her feet and in her words “like she was having a stroke” (though supposedly she had never experienced stroke), often with the sensation that her mind and memory were being totally blanked out. An episode would typically last ten to fifteen minutes. Sometimes twelve such episodes would occur in a morning. Doctors basically ignored all this, saying dismissively that “it could be anything” — it was terrifying for her and me, unimportant to them. Each time it happened I would try to appear totally calm, go through the FACE test for stroke, be as reassuring as I honestly could be. The difference between the two of us in that situation was that I would remember all these awful events, whereas she, because of her short term memory problems, would forget them. Yet she would retain an overall sense of vulnerability, which meant that she would not want to leave the house, or have anyone else leave. Eventually, of course, someone would need to go out to get food, medications, etc. At that point my mom would say that she would come to the shopping centre and maybe just sit in the car if she didn’t feel up to walking around the store. She would fix her hair and put on lipstick, but when we were ready to go, she would find that she just didn’t feel up to it at that time. This pattern would sometimes repeat all day long, and she would not want my father to go on his own, or for me to go on my own, or for the two of us to go leaving her at home alone, or for us to get a friend to come by while we were out so that she wouldn’t be alone. My mother was not at all a demanding or capricious person, actually the opposite, extremely accommodating and self-effacing...but the combination of her various illnesses put her in a position where she would often feel that there was no solution other than all of us hunkering down together.
On the particular day I’m remembering, we had been putting off various shopping needs for a few days, and my father now wanted us to go out all together for a grocery shop after breakfast, but my mother kept having episodes, and even when she wasn’t in the midst of an episode, she was feeling unwell and too fragile to leave the house, and too anxious to have anyone else leave...even though she was also, as always, concerned about making sure there was a nutritious meal planned and upcoming. Anyway, after six hours of trying to go out, my increasingly irritated father fell asleep mid afternoon in his nap chair while waiting for us to be ready to go out. At that point my mom basically said to me ‘there’s nothing to be done because I can’t go out and I can’t be left alone’ — but for some reason this reasoning seemed intolerable to me, and suddenly I rushed off, grabbed their car keys (this was at their home, they live in a different country) and drove away despite my mother’s extreme unhappiness and concern, saying I would call her from the store. The closest store was just three minutes away and when I called my father answered — he was already awake, maybe my mother woke him. I asked if mom had any ideas beyond the grocery list and she came on the phone and calmly suggested a couple of treats, so I picked them up along with the rest of the list and headed back. The absurd part is that a woman in her fifties was transported back to a totally teenage feeling of frustrated rebellion, to the point of ‘stealing’ her father’s car keys and defiantly zooming off, heart pounding, without parental permission. When I got back everything was calm and people were happy to have groceries in the house. My mom was a wonderful cook and even in her illness a tireless sous chef, so planning meals was always important to her — the fact that I brought back food probably helped smooth over my earlier misbehaviour, at least nothing was said about it. I feel sad about many aspects of this story, and regretful, but I already knew that I am not a perfect being, far from it, and I know my mom loved me for who I am, and forgave my many failings. I love her with all my heart.